Vehicle documents

Before you can legally drive on the road in the UK, there are some documents you must have.

Your driving licence

You must have a valid driving licence for the vehicle you’re driving: if there are any restrictions on your licence (such as only driving a bus with automatic transmission), you must follow them.

If you’re learning to drive a bus, you must have a full licence for category B and a provisional licence for the category you wish to drive. You should also be supervised by somebody who

  • is at least 21 years old
  • has held a licence to drive the category of vehicle you’re driving for at least 3 years.

A learner must also have red L plates on the vehicle (or D plates in Wales) – but these must be removed when the vehicle is not being driven by a learner.

The vehicle registration certificate (V5C)

The vehicle must be registered with the DVLA. The vehicle registration certificate (V5C) will show the details that have been registered

  • the name and address of the vehicle’s registered keeper (not necessarily the same as the legal owner)
  • information about the vehicle including its make, model and engine size
  • the date the vehicle was first registered.

If you’re the registered keeper, you must tell the DVLA if you

Vehicle tax

The registered keeper of a vehicle (the person named on the V5C – see above) is responsible for taxing the vehicle or telling DVLA if it's off the road or has been sold, transferred, scrapped or exported. You can pay for 6 months’ or 12 months’ tax. See GOV.UK to tax a bus.

If you’re taking a vehicle off the road and stop taxing it, you’ll need to make a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). You can make a SORN at GOV.UK.

Vehicle insurance

It’s illegal to drive without insurance. You must have at least third-party cover before you can take a vehicle on public roads.

Make sure your insurance covers how you’re going to use the vehicle. Some policies have restrictions on using the vehicle for carrying particular loads, for example.

When you apply for an insurance policy you must answer all the questions as honestly as you can. If you do not, your insurance policy will be invalid and you’ll be driving uninsured – which could lead to prosecution.

The annual test

The annual test for lorries, trailers and buses is similar to the MOT test that cars take each year. It checks vehicles are roadworthy and meet current regulations.

The annual test is for

  • motor vehicles with a gross weight of more than 3,500 kg
  • vehicles that are built or have been adapted to form part of an articulated vehicle
  • semi-trailers
  • horseboxes with a gross weight of more than 3,500 kg
  • ‘A’ frame trailers and converter dollies manufactured on or after 1 January 1979
  • other trailers with an unladen weight of more than 1,020 kg
  • all public service vehicles with more than 8 passenger seats (not including the driver’s seat).

Lorries and buses must be tested every year, starting one year after the vehicle was first registered with DVLA.

To find out more about the annual test, see the guide on GOV.UK.

Documents you must carry when driving

When you’re driving a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) professionally in the UK, you’ll need to carry documents to show that you and the vehicle are licensed.

  • Driver Qualification Card
  • tachograph – analogue or digital
  • smart card (if using digital tachograph)

Public service vehicle operator licence

If you’re driving a PCV and carrying fare-paying passengers, this is classed as a public service vehicle (PSV). The operator of the vehicle must have a PSV operator licence and the licence disc must be displayed in the front nearside of the windscreen.

Find out more about the PSV operator licence on GOV.UK.

Driving in Europe

You’ll need to carry extra documents if you’re driving in Europe:

  • your driving licence
  • your passport
  • the vehicle insurance certificate
  • the vehicle registration document.

Your vehicle operator should also provide you with instructions on how to secure the vehicle, when and how to check the vehicle and what to do if you suspect the vehicle’s security has been breached.

Some countries will require you to carry other documents: check what you’ll need before you start your journey.

Showing your documents

You must show your driving licence, a valid insurance certificate and a current annual certificate when an authorised person, such as a police officer, asks for them. You can either produce them immediately or within 7 days at a police station.

If you borrow or rent a vehicle, or if you lend someone your vehicle, it’s your responsibility to make sure that all the appropriate documents are in place. Never assume that someone else has arranged the documents or that they’re not necessary.

Other countries may have different rules about these documents so remember to check before you drive abroad. You may need to have your documents with you whenever you’re driving.

Renewing your licence

If you’re 45 or older you’ll need to renew your large goods vehicle (LGV) or passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) licence every 5 years. After the age of 65, you’ll need to renew your licence every year. See GOV.UK for information about renewing your PCV licence.

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